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New Technology File System (NTFS) Version 1.1 / 4.0
When Microsoft created Windows NT, it built the operating system pretty much from scratch--it was based on certain existing concepts, of course, but was totally different from older Microsoft operating systems. One of the key elements of NT's architecture was the file system created especially for the operating system, called the New Technology File System or NTFS. NTFS enables many of the goals of Windows NT to be realized.
NTFS is a much more complex and capable file system than any of the FAT family of file systems. It was designed with the corporate and business environment in mind; it is built for networking and with the goals of security, reliability and efficiency. It includes many features, including file-by-file compression, full permissions control and attribute settings, support for very large files, and transaction-based operation. It also does not have the problems with cluster sizes and hard disk size limitations that FAT does, and has other performance-enhancing features such as RAID support. Its most significant drawbacks are increased complexity, and less compatibility with other operating systems compared to FAT.
The NTFS file system actually has more than one version. The one used by Windows NT is commonly called either version 1.1 or version 4.0, and has a few less features than the newer NTFS 5.0 used by Windows 2000. You can find a full discussion of NTFS in this subsection of the site, and a discussion of different NTFS versions and their differences here.
While originally created for Windows NT and now used primarily by Windows NT and its successor, Windows 2000, limited NTFS support has also been added to other operating systems. For example, operating systems like Linux (as well as some other UNIX variants) and BeOS can read NTFS partitions, which helps with the interoperability of different operating systems on the same machine. However, non-Microsoft operating systems usually cannot write to NTFS partitions, generally because of the security features built into NTFS by Microsoft.